Years of conflict, economic instability and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, have left their mark on Iraq, a country with over one million Internally Displaced Persons.  As Iraq slowly recovers, I believe youth are taking the opportunity to be agents of change and the facilitators of a brighter future. Combining their passion, ideas, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit, young Iraqis are proving that they have the potential to pave the way forward in generating economic growth and reform, including long-term employment opportunities.  

 

UNDP Iraq is supporting and empowering young Iraqis to become competitive in the job market by boosting potential business initiatives. During July 2021, UNDP Iraq held a five-day training for 20 displaced or returnee youth aged 18 to 30 in support of the United Nations Network on Migration on ‘The Methods and Basics of Entering the Labor Market.’

 

 

Using a training manual developed by UNDP, the participants received training designed to develop competency on principles of business, the basics of entrepreneurship, small business management, project development and how to enter the labor market. I think the training considered local relevance to ensure that newly attained skills and knowledge could be applied within the local context.

 

 

Three months later, UNDP followed-up with an evaluation phase to find out how successful the training had been in helping these young individuals to establish themselves in the job market. Results demonstrated that most participants have benefitted from the training, including Mina and Majd, who have successfully managed to establish their own small businesses. In their own words, they describe their experience below.

Mina Mahfouz, 21 years old:

“I just moved back to my village after being an IDP for more than three years. I have a great passion for making pastries and sweets and I spend most of my time researching new recipes. Before the training, I didn't know that I could work and earn a decent income from this hobby. I was waiting to graduate from university and hoping to get a job in a government institution. The training manual helped me to understand the market and the importance of the needs of a specific group in society. Based upon this, I developed a cake recipe suitable for diabetic patients. I learned that products should be directed to a specific group of society who are potential customers.” 

 

 

“In the future, I aspire to establish a factory for the manufacture of sweets.”

Majd Al-Rawi, 20 years old:

“Before we left our city for the IDPs camp I always took pictures of all small things in a beautiful way. I was thinking of investing or developing this talent, but I didn't know how to do it.”

 

 

 

“The most prominent thing I learned is to be distinguished from competitors with something different. After attending this workshop, I learned about design thinking methodology, which enabled me to determine the exact photography field that I should specialize in. I learned through this workshop that I should look for people who need a professional product photographer to show their products well.”

 

“I now have five permanent clients that I provide my services to each week, in addition to providing photography services for twelve different clients since the end of the workshop. I aspire to expand my business and establish a successful advertising company.”

 

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Mina, and Majd are among the 20 displaced and returnee youth who participated in the training supported by UNDP Iraq.

For sustainable change to occur in Iraq with respect to youth empowerment and entry into the job market, in my opinion  skills training plays an important role in transferring new skills and knowledge from one generation to another, contributing to long-term economic and social development.

 

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